Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 – DEMDSYNOD

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. –Luke 24:1-12

To the dear ones who are experiencing their first, or fifth or twenty-fifth Easter missing beloved parents, spouses, children, friends, and family, to those who are experiencing the loss of work or security, who know the grief of which the scripture speaks today, it is no idle tale, the stone is rolled away, Jesus is risen and you will rise, too.

To the dear ones whose spouses have not kept their promises, even as you have kept yours; whose children or grandchildren are far off, whose relationships have been less than what you hoped for, prayed for or expected, it is no idle tale, the stone is rolled away, Jesus is risen and you will rise, too.

To the dear ones who are burdened by stress at work, stress at home, debt, addiction, bad decisions, whose bodies betray them – or who watch sadly as a loved one’s body runs down and out, it is no idle tale, the stone is rolled away, Jesus is risen and you will rise, too.

To the dear ones who have experienced casual prejudice, overt racism, the trauma of sexual assault and abuse, whose love has been run down with loose words and cheap criticism; to those who have been hurt by the church, it is no idle tale, the stone is rolled away, Jesus is risen and you will rise, too.

Easter is the healing promise, the hope that God gives. Let Easter be about the resurrection from the burdens that we bear and the struggles that threaten to overcome us. Whatever it is that is challenging your faith in our eternal, living and life-changing God – hear this good news, it is no idle tale, the stone is rolled away, Jesus is risen and you will rise, too.

The Rev. William (Bill) Gohl, Jr., Bishop




Delaware-Maryland Synod, ELCA

Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 – ELCA

Getting a phone call in the middle of the night is never a good thing. I
remember the second time my father had open-heart surgery. It was a long procedure and a difficult one, and after it was done the doctor called us to his office and said, “There’s been some bleeding. We’ll let you know, but you should go home now and rest.” And so going home that night, I listened for a phone call in the middle of the night and was awakened only to find out it was morning and it was birds singing, not the phone ringing. My father had made it through the night, and in fact, he did recover from the surgery.

This is the joy we feel at Easter but magnified. All of the hope that had been dashed on Good Friday, the terrible pressure of grief, the terrible pressure of knowing there was no future in the world, only on Sunday to be greeted not by the ringing of a telephone announcing death but the loud clear singing of alleluias. This is the joy we have, and it’s a promise so strong that even when we do die, even when we do confront death, we have the hope and the assurance of eternal life.

Easter makes it possible for us, even at the grave, to sing alleluia.
Christ is risen. Alleluia.
Happy Easter, dear church.

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

The Bible teaches us that, right after our mortal body takes its final breath, all believer’s souls will immediately meet with the Savior and be with all the Saints until the day of the resurrection when a new immortal body will be given to each of us (I Cor. 15:35-40). That is the promise Jesus gave to his disciples in John 14: “I prepare a place for you.”

Even on the cross, the Lord still saves; even at the last minutes, Jesus still saves. What he asks from you is to love and believe in Him, repent from all of your sins and trust in His word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please take me to your paradise when my journey on earth is over and I have fought the good fight and have finished my course. Amen

Pastor Hoda A. Zavandro

Good Friday, April 19, 2019

So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. John 19: 16b-18

This stark depiction of the darkest of days reminded me that not everything about our faith is joy and abundance. Even with the love and comfort of our heavenly father, suffering is a part of the human condition. Jesus has shown us that He understands this fully, even to the point of taking on this suffering as a man, enduring the cross and bearing our burdens. Whenever we wonder if God really understands our human plight, we can recall Gethsemane and Golgotha.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:8

Between the divine birth and the miracle of resurrection there is this equally remarkable moment where Christ submits to the ultimate in suffering for our redemption. All are crucial parts of the divine equation.

Prayer: Lord, help us through our sufferings and help us to empathize with others in theirs. We know that you care and understand. We reflect on your time of trial and what your sacrifice ultimately means to all of us. Amen.

Bill Sinclair

Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. John 13:34

My first thought (and second and third): “Oh my – I’m being asked to act like Jesus!  I’m not sure I can do that.”  Yes, the bar is quite high when we are asked to be like Jesus – maybe even out of sight.  But God would not ask us to do something for which there is no purpose.  Even if we can’t meet that standard and love one another, we might just find things in others which are good and pleasing.  We might just be better people – and likely closer to God – if we TRY to love one another as Jesus asked.  These are times in which there is so much pressure to look for the worst in others; clearly Jesus wants us to look not for the worst, but for the best – to be the best kind of people we can be.

Prayer: God, I know I am limited in what I can see in others, but help me to seek the best in them and help my eyes to see it.  Help me to understand that others might just need for me to show a little love toward them and make their day a little more bearable.  Perhaps they’ll even “pay it forward” and show a like kindness to someone else, making your world a little better. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Roger Stenersen

Wednesday, April 17,2019

Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

We have a “great cloud of witnesses” in the prophets, the apostles, our pastors, and our forerunners here at St John’s. Miss Jane Martin entitled her video history of St John’s Church, “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.” Those who came before us here at our church ran their race and left as evidence our buildings, our stained-glass windows, various other memorials, and a living church for us.

The writer of Hebrews suggests that we should not concentrate on those past heroes of our faith, though, but that we need to fix our attention on Jesus who ran this Christian race and set our goals.

We run the race for eternal life, the prize that is already won for us, keeping our mind on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” In the running, we become more like Jesus. Even though we never reach perfection, we are improved by the striving.

Jesus endured death on the cross to pay for our “sin that clings so closely” to us. He knew that after His glorious resurrection, His victory over sin and death, He had a place reserved in heaven beside the Father.

At the end of our successful race through this life, we have a place reserved in heaven, too! In John’s gospel (John 14: 3), Jesus promises, “…I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.”

Prayer: Father in Heaven, You sent Jesus to us and a great cloud of witnesses pointing to Him. Guide us as your church to remember our past and to plan for the future with stewardship. Lead us to serve people now and to keep a church here for future generations to gain more witnesses for You. Amen.

Tom Hefelfinger